I didn’t choose the game (Don’t hate the player edition)

August 24th, 2006 → 10:53 am @

My post yesterday was divided into three main parts. Here’s a Cliff Notes summary.

Part 1:
* Manny Ramirez was freakishly good in the Yankees series
* He’s among most unsung superstars in the game
* Last weekend, Manny really was like Superman

Part 2:
* According to a Sean McAdam article, Manny had to be convinced to play Saturday’s game because he didn’t get credit for a single
* For years, Manny’s hamstrings have been what’s been cited whenever he’s needed personal days

Part 3:
* Sportswriting is unique in that it’s the only place where writers fill the roles of columnists, investigative reporters, and critics
* Omniscient sourcing is used in the sports section far more than it is in other sections of the paper
* McAdam’s column may very well have been the result of this type of situation
* Because of the fact that he reported — accurately, I assume — what happened, he gets boatloads of hatred directed at him

Here are some of the reactions I got to said post:
* I was taking cheap shots at Manny
* Nobody cares when Manny takes a day off
* I am a dork
* I am carrying water for Dan Shaughnessy
* This is a non-story because Manny is on pace to play 150 games this year
* Manny really is hurt and I’m a dick for saying that he’s not
* Sportswriters are patronizing
* Fans don’t want to know this kind of crap
* I’m a misogynist, my imaginary wife hates sex, and I don’t want to hear about Cynthia’s twins
* This is making a mountain out of a molehill
* I am attacking Manny’s approach at the plate
* I am a pissant.


Before people get all upset again, take a deep breath look at what’s actually going on (and what I actually wrote). Sean McAdam did not write a column ripping Manny for making up hamstring injuries. His column, titled “Sox lose game, and perspective,” described “the way the team seems to be unraveling from the inside.” His main example was the situation with Manny and the phantom single. Another example was David Wells throwing up his hands in disgust when Javy Lopez pulled a Rich Gedman, circa Game 6 of the 1986 World Series. And a third example was when, in the middle of a game, one player loudly questioned why a teammate hadn’t been given an error. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a clubhouse in need of a group hug.

Finally, McAdam wrote, “It’s not much of a leap to think that Ramirez’s early exit from yesterday’s game — he pulled himself out of the lineup after the fourth inning, telling trainers he was suffering cramps in the right hamstring — was connected to the events of the previous two days.

“One player yesterday noted that while Ramirez had played hard for much of the season, the events of the last few days seemed to hint at an upcoming ‘episode’ involving Ramirez, in which the slugger takes a decidedly indifferent approach to his play — if he appears in the lineup at all.”

That’s a player, not McAdam. If, in the middle of an epic swoon, there’s a player calling out Manny, I want to know about it.

(A quick note: McAdam is not one of the Red Sox beat writers I was friends, or even particularly friendly, with. He was always perfectly polite, but I don’t think the two of us have ever had a non-professional (or even a non-recorded) conversation. There are plenty of beat writers I am friendly with, and plenty I’m still in touch with. McAdam isn’t one of them.)


I’m not sure how many times, or in how many ways, I can say that I think Manny Ramirez is a great player. I don’t know how I can be more emphatic about the fact that Manny was one of the rare bright spots in a depressingly feeble weekend.

I also don’t know how anyone finds it hard to believe that when, after the double-header loss on Friday, there were those teammates, coaches, and front office employees who found it frustrating that time had to spent on Saturday coaxing Manny into uniform because of a non-single the night before. This is frustrating — not for me, but for the team — regardless of whether Manny had gone 8-for-8 with 6 home runs and 2 triples the night before. This is frustrating regardless of whether Coco Crisp stranded 58 runners in scoring position and whether or not Javy Lopez can catch balls that don’t land directly in his mitt. Again, this isn’t frustrating to me: I was enjoying watching Manny put on another hitting clinic. This is frustrating to teammates.

One of the comments on my post reads, in part, “[McAdam’s] duty to the public is to report the facts of what happened: the team (ASIDE from Manny) collapsed.” Does that mean it’s reporters’ duty to the public to report the facts of what happened so long as what happened doesn’t include anything bad about anyone the public really, really likes? (I’m not talking about Dan Shaughnessy’s column, which I haven’t read, and I’m not talking about conjecture concerning what is or isn’t going on with Manny’s hammies. I’m talking about what actually did happen on Saturday, and I’m talking about actual reactions from actual teammates.) Because that’s not reporting; that’s propaganda. And it’s hypocritical: when Jeter and A-Rod are squabbling because of some on-field (or clubhouse tiff), or when Sheffield starts pissing about how the Yankees haven’t picked up his option year, Red Sox fans (and I’m generalizing here) want to read and hear about that. Dare I say, if the New York media didn’t report that, they’d be pilloried for papering over the reality of the situation.

Manny Ramirez was upset that he didn’t get credit for a single. People on the team were upset he was upset. Sean McAdam told us that. And now he’s the one who’s a jerk. If I was a psychologist, I might wonder if this was a case of displaced anxiety. With so much time and emotion and energy invested in the Red Sox, it’s too painful to direct our anger and frustration at the team itself. But this guy? (Or these guys?) Not so hard. In a way, that’s exactly what Bob Ryan was saying: “Blame must be affixed. Heads must be severed. Once upon a time, losing brought a brief period of sorrow. Now it brings rage. The rest of the season, I fear, will not be much fun.” The Red Sox got swept in a five game series? Well goddamn, that reminds me how much I hate Sean McAdam — who didn’t come with 100 miles of blaming Manny for the losses — and the rest of those snivelling sports columnists.


Two more quick points. For those who think the Boston sports media is relentlessly negative, open your eyes. If A-Rod (or Jeter, or Mussina, or Randy Johnson) had asked out of Saturday’s game, it would have been back page news on the tabs for days on end.

And: a lot of the comments were along the lines of “no one cares about this crap.” But in the 22 hours after a post went up praising Bob Ryan’s column for its clear-eyed perspective, 11 comments were posted; in the 14 hours after yesterday’s post went up, 24 comments were posted. And more than 550 more readers read “Manny and his hammies” than read my post on Ryan’s column.

Finally, speaking of comments, another reminder: when you’ve made your point, there’s no need to repeat yourself. Let’s keep the level of invective to a minimum; it brings down the Socratic level of discourse. OK? Great. I’ll see you all soon.

Post Categories: Bob Ryan & Losing streaks & Oblique references to Ice-T lyrics & Sean McAdam